Sunday, April 29, 2007

Pakistan Law and Violence Against Women

The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) of Pakistan ruled on March 31, 2007 that a woman who is raped should not be considered guilty of adultery and should be viewed under the law as a victim of rape.

The ruling may reduce the impact of the Hudood Ordinances adopted in Pakistan in 1979 under which in order to prove her case, a woman has to produce four adult Muslim men as witnesses to testify before an Islamic court that they saw the forced sexual act. If the victim fails to produce the witnesses she will be accused of adultery and sent to prison or lapidated. The same rules provide that evidence provided by non Muslims is not admissible before a court. However, the CII is merely an advisory body.

But in an article entitled Violence Against Women and International Law, New York International Law Review, Vol. 20, p.57 (Winter 2007), Rebecca Adams states that in Pakistan:

  • “The subordination of women is effectively written into the law. Women have limited or no recourse when they are victimized by domestic violence.”
  • "Men view their wives as property and in fact, certain interpretations of Islamic law allow husbands to ‘control and physically discipline their wives as necessary.'"
  • "Evidence suggests that somewhere between 70 and 90% of Pakistani women are victims of domestic violence."
  • "The Pakistani legal system is comprised of 'tribal codes, Islamic law, Indo-British judicial traditions and customary traditions' that have created an ‘atmosphere of oppression around women, where any advantage or opportunity offered to women by one law, is cancelled out by one or more of the others.'"
  • Pakistan does not have any specific legislation against domestic violence.
  • Even egregious crimes such as honor killings, where a man murders his wife for apparent or suspected infidelity, almost always receive minimal punishment.
  • Women who bring claims of assault often face bias within the justice system from police officers, prosecutors and judges who are more likely to believe that a woman is trying to ‘frame’ a man or that domestic violence is a private matter that is sanctioned by the law and culture.
  • A woman claiming sexual assault is more likely to be jailed for fornication or adultery than to be successful in her suit.
  • Marriage is a complete defense to a charge of rape.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Preventing International Child Abduction

The Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act – which includes some specific provisions designed to prevent international child abduction – was signed into law in Kansas on April 6, 2007. Kansas is the fourth state to enact it, along with Nevada, Nebraska and South Dakota. Bills to adopt the new law have been introduced in at least five other legislatures -- Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Governor Kathleen Sebelius said, "Children aren't just abducted by strangers. Sometimes, abductions take place during custody disputes. We want to identify situations where a child is potentially at risk for abduction and provide ways to prevent that abduction from taking place."

The American Bar Association’s House of Delegates at its Midyear Meeting in Miami in February approved the Uniform Act.

The Act authorizes a proceeding in a court between contestants in a child custody dispute during which the court considers the probability that a contestant will abduct a child to another state or foreign jurisdiction. Upon a finding that an abduction is highly probable, the court may issue orders as necessary to prevent that abduction. The court hears evidence respecting the risk of abduction, based upon statutorily provided risk factors: previous abductions or attempts to abduct; threats by a contestant respecting abduction; abuse of the child; domestic violence; negligence; or, refusal to obey an existing child-custody order.

There are further risk factors if the anticipated abduction is to a foreign country, especially if the country is not a party to the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. Standing to bring such a proceeding broadly includes the court itself, a contestant in a child-custody proceeding, a prosecutor or a public attorney. UCAPA relies upon the jurisdictional rules of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.